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Mar 23, 2020

Coronavirus News: New Zealand announces lockdown; Hong Kong bars entry to all non-residents - live updates

Ben Butler



Rory Carroll
Delays in testing and giving people results are crippling Ireland’s response to coronavirus, fuelling fears of contagion despite social distancing measures.
The waiting time for a test is four to five days, with several more days for results, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE), meaning people who suspect they have the disease are left in the dark for around a week.
Around 40,000 people are waiting for a test, a backlog that hinders contact tracing and leaves healthcare workers who are in self-isolation, and potentially healthy, unable to work.
Simon Harris, the health minister, told RTE on Monday that additional testing facilities were being opened across the country and that healthcare workers and other groups may be given priority testing until the backlog is cleared.
The minister also warned of potential further closures of public amenities after crowds gathered at parks over weekends.
The HSE confirmed 121 new cases on Sunday, raising Ireland’s total to 906. Northern Ireland reported 20 cases, bringing its total to 128.
A nursing home and a direct provision centre which hosts asylum seekers have reported infections, fuelling fears of rapid contagion among vulnerable people who cannot easily self-isolate.
A member of Ireland’s National Ambulance Service with members of the defence forces on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin as defence forces tents have been set up alongside a naval ship ahead of it becoming operational as a testing centre for Covid-19.
A member of Ireland’s National Ambulance Service with members of the defence forces on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin as defence forces tents have been set up alongside a naval ship ahead of it becoming operational as a testing centre for Covid-19. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Spain: 650,000 rapid testing kits distributed

Health authorities in Spain are distributing almost 650,000 rapid testing kits as the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country approaches 30,000.
The first to receive the kits will be frontline hospital staff and those in the regions most affected by the spread of the virusBy Sunday evening, the health ministry had recorded 28,572 cases and 1,720 deaths.
Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has called on the EU to instigate a “Marshall Plan” to counter the economic effects of the crisis, and also announced that the state of emergency will be extended until 11 April.
Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon)
Apostamos por un gran "plan Marshall" para impulsar un proceso de reconstrucción social y económica en la #UE con todas las herramientas a nuestro alcance. Seguiremos defendiendo los intereses de España y Europa, que frente al #COVID19 son los mismos.#EsteVirusLoParamosUnidos pic.twitter.com/F25ygtaGSh
March 22, 2020
Despite the central government’s nationwide lockdown, some argue it is not doing enough to tackle the virus.
On Sunday, the regional government of the southeastern region of Murcia announced “the total shutdown of the region, except for minimal services”.
It was rebuked by the central government, which said such an order could be given only by the health minister.”The Spanish government continues to follow the WHO’s recommendations at all times and reiterates that it has adopted the strictest measures on Europe and some of the strictest globally when it comes to beating the coronavirus,” the central government said in a statement.”
We once again appeal for unity between administrations and stress out constant willingness to co-ordinate and collaborate with autonomous regions in the fight against the pandemic.”
Updated

Afghanistan has reported six new Coronavirus cases, raising the total number to 40.
Three of the new cases are reported in the western province of Herat, which raised the total number in the most affected part of Afghanistan to 21.
Herat neighbours Iran and concerns are high in the war torn country as around 15 thousands Afghans come from Iran each day.
Wahidullah Mayar, spokesman for Afghanisatan’s health ministry, said officials asked the government to quarantine Herat province but he added that no steps have been taken so far.
In a press conference, Mayar showed pictures of empty streets of France, Italy and India and asked people to stay at home.
Last week was the new solar year eve and thousands of people in Herat and across the country went out. Mayar warned that if things go on with “current state of condition, we will have a catastrophe and in that case heath ministry is not responsible”.
The country reported its first Coronavirus death yesterday.
An Afghan health worker measures the temperature of Afghan passengers in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as they enter Kabul trough Kabul’s western entrance gate, in the Paghman district of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, March 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
An Afghan health worker measures the temperature of Afghan passengers in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as they enter Kabul trough Kabul’s western entrance gate, in the Paghman district of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, March 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul) Photograph: Rahmat Gul/AP

Strict rules on movement could be "in place soon" - UK health Sec

Rowena Mason
Britain’s health secretary has accused those still socialising of putting the lives of NHS workers and others at risk, as he promised the army would help deliver more protective equipment for medical staff.
Matt Hancock said stricter rules such as curfews or constraints on movement could come into place “very soon” and urged people still socialising or going to holiday locations to “stop it, and if you don’t stop it then we’re going to have to take more measures”.
He took a much tougher line than the prime minister on those defying social distancing rules, saying people carrying on as usual were being “incredibly unfair to go and socialise in the way we have seen”.
Anger and concern built up over the weekend as images and reports were shared of large numbers congregating in some public places
Looking Cat (@lookingcat)
Columbia Road flower market, East London a couple of hours ago.
(photo by BBC newsperson @JJ_Bryant MT @dinosofos)
I don't even know what to say anymore. I think I'm actually going to cry. pic.twitter.com/iZa5GJ7ti9
March 22, 2020

Hong Kong bans alcohol sales

Helen Davidson
On top of its ban on foreign arrivals and transits just announced a short time ago, Hong Kong has also declared its intention to stop bars and restaurants serving alcohol.
Why? From chief executive Carrie Lam: “People get intimate when they get drunk.”
Daniel Suen (@suen_daniel)
#Breaking: Carrie Lam said govt will introduce an amendment to legislation banning licensed bars and restaurants from selling alcohol.
Her reason: "people get intimate when they get drunk". pic.twitter.com/zrfYf0lggO
March 23, 2020
It comes after Hong Kongers started to venture out again, only for a second wave of infections as travellers came home. The nightlife district of Lan Kwai Fung has now emerged as the source of an outbreak.
Aaron Mc Nicholas (@aaronMCN)
The Hong Kong government is proposing that all bars, clubs and restaurants covered by the Liquor Licensing Board should stop serving alcohol
This has to be done by legislative amendment, so it remains a proposal unless and until it's passed by the Legislative Council pic.twitter.com/QFPOz8tVBq
March 23, 2020
The suspension of liquor licences for the 8,600 venues in question must be legislated so for the moment it’s only a proposal.
But further south, in large parts of Australia it became a reality today.
Under orders from the federal government, all registered and licensed pubs, clubs, casinos and nightclubs are closed, costing thousands of jobs.
Read more here

British rail franchise agreements suspended

The British government is effectively nationalising the state’s railways for a temporary period, it has been announced.
Rail franchise agreements are to be suspended to avoid train companies collapsing due to the coronavirus, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced.
Operators will be paid a small management fee to run services, with all revenue and cost risk transferred to the Government.
The emergency measures will be in place for an initial period of six months. Rail timetables have been slashed because of Covid-19.
The DfT said passenger numbers have fallen by up to 70%, while ticket sales are down by two-thirds.
The move is coming as no surprise to critics of Britain’s highly privatised model, and many expect there will be no return.
Mark Gregory (@MarkGregoryEY)
With rail franchises suspended, pretty clear the privatisation/regulation/competition model in transport has failed. No surprise for those of us involved at the start, inefficient and weak structures created to try and create competition
March 23, 2020
The minister for transport tweets:
Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps)
I've just announced an Emergency Measures Agreement to keep the railway running for key workers, plus fee-free refunds for all advance tickets passengers. Find out more: https://t.co/OYAwZSwX2s
March 23, 2020
Updated

Among those who have died from coronavirus in the UK is a primary school teacher who was admitted to hospital with symptoms.
Wendy Jacobs, the headteacher of Roose Community Primary School was being cared for at Furness General Hospital, according to local reports.
The school’s board of governors said in a statement: “This is devastating news for our school and nursery community and all our thoughts and sympathies are with her family.”

Updated

Hong Kong bans entry to all non-residents

Helen Davidson
Hong Kong will ban the entry of all non-residents to Hong Kong from 11.59pm Tuesday, for 14 days.
Hong Kong airport will also stop all transit flights.Anyone entering from Macau or Taiwan must undergo 14 days quarantine.
Chief executive Carrie Lam said the epidemic in Hong Kong has become more serious, and extra measures were needed.She warned people not to break the law.”For people who breach the quarantine orders we will tackle these cases severely,” she added.
Police have tracked down five people who absconded home quarantine. Another 36 are under investigation.
Updated

This compilation of Italian mayors laying down the law in some particularly inimitable ways to those transgressing rules on staying at home is worth a watch.
🌈 (@protectheflames)
"I stopped him and said, 'Look, this isn't a movie. You are not Will Smith in I Am Legend. Go home."
This is the updated compilation of Italian Mayors losing it at people violating #Covid19 quarantine. Yes, subtitles are accurate. pic.twitter.com/60V4Csuonb
March 22, 2020

Germany: cases rise to 22,672, with 86 deaths

In Germany, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has risen to 22,672 and 86 people have died from the disease, according to a tally released on Monday by the public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).
That compares with 18,610 cases and 55 deaths on Sunday, when RKI warned that the actual number was likely higher as not all local health authorities had submitted their figures over the weekend.
Updated

Also in eastern Europe, Poland has said today that it cannot rule out imposing further constraints on citizens to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Poland has shuttered schools, cinemas and theatres, while limiting public gatherings to no more than 50 people. It has also closed its borders to foreigners and introduced a “state of epidemic”, recommending its citizens to stay at home.
But government spokesman Piotr Muller told public radio in Poland today: “The government is considering various options regarding the epidemic situation, including launching other limitations than up to date.”

Hungary to consider bill that would let Orbán rule by decree

In developments to come this week in Europe, Hungary’s parliament will consider an emergency bill that would give prime minister Viktor Orbán sweeping powers to rule by decree, without a clear cut-off date.
The Guardian’s Shaun Walker reports that the bill seeks to extend the state of emergency declared earlier this month over coronavirus, and could also see people jailed for spreading information deemed to be fake news.
The government has portrayed the move as a necessary response to the unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, but critics immediately labelled the legislation as dangerously open-ended and vulnerable to abuse.
Updated

Authorities in Hong Kong have said that they will ban all tourists to the city from Wednesday.
That’s breaking now on Reuters, which adds that people coming from Taiwan and Macau will also need to be quarantined.

A senior British doctor has warned that the rate of increase in Covid-19 patients who will need critical care is at the alarming end of the spectrum.
“The fear is that we are going to be working in very different ways than we have been. We are used to working in a controlled environment, with dedicated staff,” said Ganesh Suntharalingam, President of the Intensive Care Society, which is the largest multi-professional critical care membership organisation in the UK.
We will remain in control but we are going to have to expand to a very high degree. this is more than just putting intensive care beds in wards,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“This is about moving to a different order of magnitude where we will have to provide essential care for as many people as possible using every resources that we have.”
Britain was not yet in the position were decisions will have to be made about who will get particular care and who will not due to limited resources, he said, but a stage may come where a very broad discussion will have to be made, involving society.

UK hospitals are in urgent need of ventilators and are approaching full capacity because of the Covid-19 outbreak, which will increasingly force doctors to make tough decisions about which patients to treat, according to the trade union body for British doctors and medical students.
The comments by British Medical Association spokesman and consultant anaesthetist Tom Dolphin come as senior staff at a London hospital told the Guardian they expect beds in its intensive care unit to be full by 30 March, with one source describing its A&E unit as “like a war zone”.
A sign for an NHS coronavirus pod at University College hospital in London
A sign for an NHS coronavirus pod at University College hospital in London. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian
Dolphin, who works at Imperial College London, said some hospitals in London, such as Northwick Park, which was forced to declare a “critical incident” last week after running out of critical care beds, are already struggling with the number of patients.
“Like any epidemic, there are hotspots. Some hospitals have had to transfer patients out to other intensive care units,” he told PA Media, adding: “We’re going to get to the point where we are running out of capacity and that transfer ability is going to be difficult to do anyway because nowhere else will have anywhere either.”
Updated

Ben Quinn
Good morning from London. This is Ben Quinn picking up the live blog
In the UK, MPs will be asked today to endorse new powers from the police and other authorities, including doctors. All 390 pages of the coronavirus bill are being rushed through.
The possibility of a much tougher lockdown in line with that of other European states will also be considered today by the prime minister, Boris Johnson, who will discuss this possible measures with ministers and senior officials.
It comes after a weekend of anger in some quarters at the large numbers of people who took to the streets and parks amid sunny weather, as well as concern that Britain is already behind the curve in terms of taking the action needed.
Updated

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan, for today. I will now be leaving you in the washed and capable hands of colleague Ben Quinn.


People are venting their frustration after airline Emirates announced it would suspend all flights for two weeks in response to the United Arab Emirates’ decision to suspend all inbound and outbound passenger flights and the transit of airline passengers.
Jo Walsh (@jopswalsh)
@helenrsullivan emirates suspending flights for 2 weeks from 25 March as UAE banning passengers in transit. No indication of when flights will resume. In Sydney with my NHS geriatrician consultant husband and 10 month old with no way back to Glasgow!
March 23, 2020
Emma (@Emma10398)
@emirates flight was cancelled from SYD to DXB without an email - need customer service to contact me! Call center will not answer!!!!
March 23, 2020
Simone Toolan (@SimmaSim)
@emirates we have been trying to contact you around my parents flight back to the UK from NZ. They are due to fly tomorrow but the flight shows as suspended. We can’t get through to your contact centre. Can someone please come back to me ASAP!?
March 23, 2020
Updated

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